In her boiler-room hideaway, awkward teenager Claudia suffers her self-imposed exile, with only her goldfish Romeo & Juliet for company. A loner with a poetic soul, she obsesses about her father's impending marriage to her soon-to-be step-mother, whilst the kind-hearted school janitor tolerates her from afar, protecting her from discovery and from herself.
I, Claudia is a touching and insightful one-hander from playwright and performer Kristen Thomson. She chooses to play the parts behind grotesque comedia dell'arte-style masks. Instead of hiding the emotions and motivations of each character, the masks together with the excellently-performed physical and vocal mannerisms of Thomson serve to highlight the hidden thoughts and desperation behind them.
At times, this moving and well-paced work threatens to meander away from its point; yet it is quickly brought back on track by Thomson's quick changes and her convincing dialogue. As Claudia herself, she is excellent, portraying all the awkwardness and angst of the teenage misfit so believably that you forget not only the mask from which her wide eyes shine behind, but also the fact this is a solo performance which she also wrote.
Produced by the Toronto-based Crow's Theatre company, I, Claudia is a sharply-observed and poignant piece. There is comic relief in the dialogue and the absurdity of some of its title character's thoughts and actions, but ultimately it is a study of what lies behind the masks we each choose to wear ourselves.
It's always a good sign when a show manages to charm its audience before a word is spoken, and Kristen Thomson's I, Claudia has the audience well and truly hooked soon after.
Claudia's story is by no means exceptional. At 12 and three-quarters she's dealing with her parent's divorce, fickle friends and the mortifying prospect of her mother finding out what's under her bed.
In the face of this three-pronged threat she retreats to the school boiler room, where the janitor keeps a watchful but respectful eye.
Writer and performer Kirsten Thomson uses masks to switch between roles and paint a picture of youthful optimism in the face of disappointment and betrayal by adults, although by the heart- tugging conclusion, Claudia's own mask of resilience has slipped. Thomson is not breaking any new ground here, but she has created a set of thoroughly engaging characters and a story that is told with humour but also great sensitivity. (Shona Craven The Herald 18/08/10)
Crow's Theatre present Kristen Thomson's tale of Claudia, a near-teen growing up amid parental divorce, angry, anxious and trying to make sense of it all. An excellent one-person performance that utilises masks as part of the character work and unfolding story.
Claudia is a sibling-poor, philosopbical urban girl, in the aftermath of parental divorce. She's angry, she's confused. She wants to understand and she wants understanding.
This is a very tenderly written play about growing through teens, the pains and occasional joys of adolescence. Claudia is a "good kid" who is coming to terms with a new woman in her father's life after his separation from her mother. Protean performer, Kristen Thomson plays all the characters, each in a mask that captures the essence of that character so that the expression inherent in the mask fires the unique imagination of each audience member to internally create that character in rich detail before them.
We all will see each character in our mind's eye, with the common ground of voice, physical movement and Thomson's strong and energetic script. These are character studies with a difference as we cannot see what the actor's facial expressions are so, at least in part, we are co-creators of the piece, the reality of the charactcer before us slightly different for each audience member. It might all fall short if it weren't for the outstanding portrayals of each character in voice, costume, word and movement by Kristen Thomson, aided by masks designed both to capture essence, portray it, and also stimulate audience imagination.
And these characters - her grandfather, her father's new girlfriend, and the East European caretaker- are played with such studied precision by Thomson, it is this which earns I, Claudia its five stars.
Each character is of a piece, drawn so well and realised and the whole emerges as greater than the sum of the parts in a work that draws us in and captivates us. A curtain is drawn across the stage and reveals to us Claudia's world - costumes are changed and wigs and props further delineate the characters. Each mask firmly establishes the character, enlivened by Thomson's fine delivery. And then we, as audience, fill in the details, imagining the movement of the facial masks, willing them into more detailed life. And it enriches the piece, the mask do not limit, they enhance. We meet the people in her life, and Claudia is the one we return to, the anchor for the story.
Sometimes the narrative is a little unclear in a text that can feel a little overloaded with words. Thomson - the writer and the performer - shouldn't hold back from the power of silence and allowing the audience to breath the material in and out a little before moving on.
Claudia is well motived, trying to accept the changes in her life. She's an outsider, endearing and believable. I've not seen a one person show performed so well at this year's Fringe as I. Claudia. It is touching, funny, with a stellar performance from Thomson. Unmissable. (Paul Levy - Fringereview.com 12/08/10)
THE STAGE MUST SEE! - NOMINATED BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE 2010 Originally conceived and performed in 2001, this delightful one-woman show has already had raving reviews, a successful international tour and the honour of being turned into an award-winning film.
Nevertheless, in its current incarnation, it seems as fresh and vibrant as if it has only just emerged from its chrysalis.
The butterfly metaphor, borrowed from the show itself, sums up its main theme. This is the story of a precocious 13 year old Toronto schoolgirl caught up in between the confusion of puberty and the break up of her family home. To make matters more interesting, we also meet another three protagonists in this small drama, conjured up by writer/performer Kristen Thomson with skill, sensitivity and a selection of masks and costumes.
Director and sound designer Chris Abraham places the whole thing into an evocative soundscape to add emotional nuance and aid the in between scene transformations.
Rendered with a perfect combination of imagination, humour and poise, this rite of passage story is also bejewelled with unexpected and very well-placed pearls of wisdom guaranteed to lodge themselves into your memory. Very well worth catching this summer. (The Stage 12/08/10 - Duska Radosavljevic)
- FROM THE CANADIAN PRESS
The Power of One
"This week's revival of I, Claudia, and a host of recent memorable performances underscore why the one-person show has become a Canadian art form in its own right... (Richard Ouzounian, Toronto Star)
"The largest compliment I can give to I, Claudia is how natural the language and stories come out. Kristen Thomson has, as most playwrights should, a wonderful ear for how people speak..." (Wil Knoll, getdown.ca (Calgary)
A Girl to Remember
"There are a lot of things you could say about the solo show that opened on Friday at Alberta Theatre Projects. But there's only one possible way of summing them all up: 'Go and see it.'... Bob Clark, Calgary Herald (Calgary)
I, Claudia is 90 Magical Minutes
"Crow Theatre's I, Claudia currently running at Alberta Theatre Projects practically defines must-see theatre. It's enchanting, enthralling and completely captivating. ..." Louis B. Hobson, canoe.ca (Calgary)
Claudia getting better with age
"After all these years at the Tarragon, Toronto audiences have a chance to see I, Claudia in a whole new space, if not a whole new light, as Thomson brings the show to life once more, this time under the aegis of Crow's Theatre... (John Coulourn, Toronto Sun)
"Purchase as many tickets as you can, and then force all of your friends to do the same. Then pick up random people off the street and drag them to the show along with you. Suffice it to say, this show was amazing. Unbelievable. Spectacular. Heartbreaking, hi-larious, and utterly, utterly exquisite..." Kathy Morgan, Mooney on Theatre (Toronto)
Thomson Triumphant in I, Claudia
"Kristen Thomson's portrait of a wonderfully winsome young woman trembling on the cusp of adolescence is one of the freshest things to hit the stage in many a season..." (Richard Ouzounian, Toronto Star)
"Claudia may be Canada's favourite official pre-teen. The star of Kristen Thomson's one-woman masterpiece, I, Claudia, has been delighting audiences for the better part of a decade... (Johnnie Walker, Torontoist)
Hot Show Makes Welcome Return
"Kristen and her gallery of characters fill it (the theatre) effortlessly..." Glenn Sumi, Now Magazine (Toronto)
"I, Claudia must rank as one of the most successful productions in Canadian in the last decade..." National Post (Toronto)
"Back for a rumoured last time, Kristen Thomson's I, Claudia still uses the same masks, the same rumpled red curtain and the same deeply engaging glimpse into four interconnected individuals to charm and captivate its audiences as it originally did in 2001 at the Tarragon..." Byron Laviolette, Eye Weekly (Toronto)
I, Claudia Evokes a Rare Power
"I sat for I, Claudia assuming that I would experience nothing firm enough to crack the veneer of being an audience member. But I was wrong. When I glanced towards my companion and saw tears on her cheeks in the stage light, I knew I wasn't alone..." Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston, Ottawa Express (Ottawa)
Tour-de-Force in the Eye of I,Claudia's Storm
"a tour-de-force performance, slipping effortlessly between characters with striking power and imagination." Denis Armstrong, The Ottawa Sun (Ottawa)
"We can all relate to the bittersweet awkwardness of puberty. The drama that ensues from the hormonal rollercoaster of being not quite a teen is the inspiration for I, Claudia" Gilda Furgiuele, The Wellington Oracle (Ottawa)
I, Claudia is Incredible
"Chris Abraham's production is exquisitely refined, focusing on extreme character development and glowing moments of theatrical magic. Like his searing frozen two seasons ago, I, Claudia is characterized by translucent human moments frozen in a dark vista as hyper-focused beams of light pierce the blackness of the theatre. It's a fluid sensation that renders the almost ritualized character transformations - the shedding and donning of masks - natural. He is also attuned to the rhythm of a script which simultaneously attracts and repels emotion..." Eva Marie Clarke, Vue Weekly (Edmonton)
Little Girl Blue
"Claudia herself might represent one of the most accurate portrayals of an adolescent in recent memory; this show captures all the tics and inflections of a precocious 12-year-old girl so vividly that I wouldn't be surprised if Thomson had actually hired one to write the character for her. But that's trying to shift the credit elsewhere, and it is Thomson's strong writing that makes I, Claudia such a touching experience..." Renato Pagnani, See Magazine (Edmonton)